A “consensus view” amongst climate scientists holds that the Northern Hemisphere will be warming this month, as spring is coming. This is thought to be due to the Earth’s orbit around the sun and the inclination of the Earth’s axis, tilting the Northern Hemisphere progressively towards the sun throughout March and April and increasing the amount of solar radiation received at northern latitudes.
In a new novel, State of Euphoria, bestselling author Michael Crikey uncovers major flaws in this theory and warns against false hopes for the arrival of spring.
This is not merely fiction: Crikey underpins his thesis with numerous scientific diagrams. He presents measurements from over a dozen weather stations in the Northern Hemisphere where temperatures show a cooling trend in March. He further cites scientific results which show that in some places, snow and ice have increased in the past weeks, counter to climatologists’ claims that they should be melting away in the spring sun. He further argues that even the average temperature of the Northern Hemisphere has not increased steadily; during one week of March, it showed a slight cooling despite the increase in solar radiation.
“This casts a grave shadow of doubt on the theory of the seasons”, says Crikey. “Consensus science is not good science.” He says we should not trust computer models projecting that June will be much warmer than March in most of the Northern Hemisphere. “These models cannot even predict the weather in two weeks time – why should we believe what they say about temperatures in two months?” He also says that only six months ago, scientists were predicting a cooling.
”Nobody can predict the future,” asserts Crikey. Farmers risk wasting billions of dollars if they trust the warming forecast; Crikey urges them to wait with sowing until it is clear that summer temperatures have indeed arrived.
Crikey argues that climatologists cling to the ill-founded theory of seasons for political reasons. “Scientists have promoted their orbital theory of seasons for centuries without questioning it,” says Crikey. “It has become like a dogma. They cannot admit that it is wrong without suffering a serious setback in credibility and research funding”.
Crikey’s book was welcomed by many organisations, such as the Science and Environment Propaganda Project (SEPP) and the Frontiers of Fallacy Foundation (FF). In an emotional speech, Senator Outhofe urged his colleagues to take the time for reading the novel. He called seasons a “great hoax” and emphasised that “science is overwhelmingly on the side that, in fact, they are not occurring, and if they are occurring, are not a result of the Earth’s orbit”.
Climate scientists, on the other hand, quickly jumped up to reject Crikey’s claims. “We have a curve called the ‘tennis racket’ which proves seasons are real,” says NASA’s Gavin Schmoot. “It is based on a sophisticated statistical analysis of the isotope composition of sediment in old French wines. In fact, we have many rackets so it is more like a tennis club.”
53 Responses to "Doubts about the Advent of Spring"
Dusty Bradshaw says
This is something I have been worried about for a long time. Even more worrisome are the plans from a group of renegade ex-KGB/Russian Mafia that plan to release plane loads full reflective chemicals high up into the stratosphere. These simple reflective compounds will freeze the Earth in a matter of months by eliminating solar radiation. “Operation Snowflake” is well past the planning stages if their conditions are not met. If you combine that with the new “doubts of spring”, then an Ice Age is imminent. The renegades are just in it for the money. But I wonder what motivates Springs recent antics….
Michael Jankowski says
What, no mention of how this April warming is anthropogenic? No mention that even though previous Aprils in the Northern Hemisphere have typically been warmer than corresponding months of March, that this time, the April warming is conclusively due to man-made GHG emissions and not simply natural? No mention that even though the Earth’s orbit around the sun and axis inclination are “natural,” that these events are more extreme now due to man-made GHG emissions? No mention that this orbit and axis inclination could be altered by GHG emissions so that future April’s could either be catastrophically warm (or cold), catastrophically wet (or dry), and full of catastrophic weather events such as hurricanes and tornados?
This makes perfect sense. Of course the idea of a seasonal cycle is just a myth perpertuated by big buisness. We have winter/spring/summer/fall fashions, winter summer camp, winter tires, – the list just goes on and on. However, it points to an obvious conclusion: Big companies trying to make you part with your money on account of the seasonality myth. Indeed, when I think of it the area in which I live (Iceland) has not had a decent summer since…..since ever I think. Well, old geezers will claim that in the 1930s there were good summers, – but these are just anecdotal stories. – no hard evidence really….It all fits. Thanks Stefan for bringing my attention to this.
Ion Freeman says
Heh, he. Personal note: operation snowflake was on my comprehensive exams.
Joseph O'Sullivan says
It will be only a few days before Senator Inhofe quotes Michael Crikey’s book “The State of Euphoria” on the Senate floor.
Mike Atkinson says
You missed the part where Crikey mentions the heat island effect, every spring Humans migrate north from their winter feeding grounds (in Florida and Spain) to their summer ranges (in New England and Britain). The hot air they generate as they complain about the state of their nations politics, morals, crime, economy seriously distorts the statistics, he claims. If meaurements had been made away from right wing loadmouths and left wing moaners, then the spring effect would go away.
To test this theory Dr Heat of the Met Office made careful measurements of the temperature of Central London and Washington on days when Parliament and Congress were sitting and on days when they weren’t. he has shown, the heat island effect to be below measurement sensitivities. Results are published in Nature.
Eli Rabett says
Michael, seriously you must know that none of that stuff is natural. Genesis 1
I predict global cooling commencing in late August, but some scientists
from the University of Old Virginny will contend that this is merely a
hemispheric effect and cannot be reliably extrapolated to a global
cooling trend. Other scientists from Old Virginny will claim that
sweltering hot August summers are good for penguins and polar bears
because there are more plants growing in Brazil when they aren’t
being burned down by farmers.
Brian Jackson says
I’m not sure I believe this…isn’t some of this stuff funded by the electric blanket industry?
Mick Mick says
Once again you are ignoring my deconstruction of the “tennis racket” which will be published in an upcomming Energy and Entertainment. I use string theory to show that if you substitute degrees for radians and George W. Bush’s approval rating for any number you don’t like, any set of random numbers can be turned into an image of the Virgin Mary and sold on e-bay. So there.
The Wool Street Journal editorial page has a piece decrying government interference to force everyone to adjust their clocks so that people can better adapt to ‘spring’. They call it an “enormous burden on clock manufacturers”, and a surreptitious “tax on time”. They go on to describe scientists promoting the idea as ‘misguided idealists’ who want to go back to a pre-modern clockless era. In a particularly telling point, they pointed out that Stravinsky, an early pioneer of the idea of ‘spring’, was Russian.
Roger Coppock says
BUT, THEY CAN’T PREDICT NEXT WEEK’S WEATHER. SO,
HOW CAN THEY SAY ANYTHING ABOUT NEXT MONTH?
Lynn Vincentnathan says
You’ve been focusing on season science too narrowly, and not the politics of it. Crikey is being paid richly in oil to dumby us down with spurious arguments.
Wake up and smell the oil. We live in a dem-oil-cracy, run by oil-garchs. And we’ve sold our souls to the dev-oil for temporary pleasures, and will undoubtably end up in oil-hell. The oil-garchs and Crikey are jumping for joil over their victories — especially the one where we go on debating season theory yes, season theory no, while they rake up huge profits. But ultimately they’ll end up in oil-hell with us.
An don’t bother to read Crikey’s State of Stuck, claiming there’s a gravity hoax, and that we could telekinesically beam up to another, better planet, except scientists have convinced us that gravity is holding us back, so we don’t even try, and that the only thing left for courageous people who want to save us is to totally trash earth so as to push us out of our earth-nest up to a better planet. It’s just another ruse of Crikey and the oil-garchs to keep us off-real-topic.
Colin Keyse says
Yes but Gavin, (#12) it has since been proved by the IPIM (International Panel of Itinerant Musicologists) that Stravinsky was Rite.
I’ve also noticed that there is an entirely predictable and hysterical media reaction around the end of March each year in response to ‘Spring Theory’, relating to a tipping-point supposedly called the ‘Equinox’.
This is an obvious fallacy since the only ‘Equinox’ of note is an album by Jean Michelle-Jarre.
who is French.
I rest my case.
Peter J. Wetzel says
Well, there you have it. Climate change, not to mention gravity, thoroughly and irrefutably debunked.
There is no gravity, the Earth just sucks.
Isaac Held says
On a slightly more serious note:
Climate modelers are very thankful for the existence of the seasonal cycle, for providing such a beautiful data set with which we can test a models quantitative response to a well-defined change in external forcing. (If there were a bigger seasonal signal in the tropical oceans, I am pretty sure that our uncertainty about climate sensitivity would be a whole lot smaller.) When I find myself in a heated argument with a global warming sceptic, and tire of being criticized as naive for believing in climate models, or of underestimating the complexity of nature, etc, I find it useful to just interject “But summer IS warmer than winter!”.
But there is a flip side to this point: suppose that we had no data on the amplitude of the seasonal cycle — how certain would we be that our models contained the right physics? that our dramatic prediction of a “monsoon” would pan out? that the Arctic ice would survive the summer? The analogy with global warming is a very good one — the cloud modeling problem would raise its head as the key uncertainty here as well.
What really worries me is the fear that we might already have passed the point known as “peak di-hydrogen oxide”… head for the hills!
George Roman says
Funny, but I’m worried that a few members of the “interested public” won’t pick up on the sarcasm.
Crikey’s reasoning is far more sophisticated than most of you are giving him credit for. Climate science “consensus” claims that spring will arrive this year and there is some kind of “theory” involving orbital changes that explains that.
But Crikey knows that this so-called “scientific” reasoning involves an “inductive fallacy”. Sure there’s a large sample involving millions of years where for each year Y spring followed winter. But, really, what does this tell us about the year Y+1? Nothing, nothing at all!
Dragons flight says
I don’t really think that making fun of one’s opponents has much role in any debate, but I find it particularly unnerving when the side which wants to be representing the rational and reasoned scientific establishment resorts to making fun of the views of the other side.
Some people take MC seriously. An even greater number don’t understand the debate. Some of these people are going to visit RealClimate in the hopes of learning something. But look at how this April Fools parable will look to people that are confused or skeptical? Almost the entire posting says that doubting global warming is as absurd as doubting the seasons. Anyone who is skeptical or confused is going to have doubts, so by analogy, you are effectively saying that all of those people are morons. Even in the best case scenario, this article has given skeptics a good point of evidence that their concerns will not be taken seriously at RC.
Sure it’s funny, and it is going to play well among environmentalists, and the already converted, but I had hoped that RC wanted to do more than preach to the faithful. One could easily have had fun with April Fools without making fun of others. For example, write an article saying: “We’re sorry, this has all been a big misunderstanding. There has never really been any global warming.” or “Climatologists agree: Bring on the heat. Winter was never much fun, anyway.” or “Solution to Global Warming found: Breathe Less. Six billion humans expelling carbon dioxide at an alarming rate.” There are plenty of ways to have fun with the holiday that don’t involve mocking your opponents. And even if you feel compelled to mock MC, then you should at least have more than a few tacked on lines of self-deprecating humor (e.g. “tennis rackets”) to give it comedic balance. Instead, RC seems to let their frustrations get the better of them and have used April Fools as a thinly veiled excuse for attacking their opponents. Frankly, I’m disappointed in RC.
In order to be effective, scientists need to be respected as neutral arbitrers of truth. Part of that means being seen to take criticism seriously, even when there are good reasons to believe that the criticisms are without merit. The members of RC want to portray themselves as the representatives of the scientific climate establishment on the net. If they then go out and malign and make fun of the opposition that does a disservice to the credibility of the scientific establishment and ultimately to all of us. If RC wants to represent the voice of the climate establishment, then they ought to be willing to hold themselves to a higher standard.
Anyway, that’s just my opinion, and hopefully RC can get back to discussing science on it’s merits.
[Response: You are being a little harsh here. What the parody does is point out that certain arguments made against ‘global warming’ are fallacious, not that all of them necessarily are. For instance, that an inability to forecast weather for more than a few days implies that climate forecasts are impossible, is simply wrong. That a ‘consensus’ on an issue implies it can’t be science, is wrong. That local changes are necessarily representative of the global (or hemispheric in this case) mean, is wrong. Etc. Other issues are more worthy of serious discussion, and we will get back to that after this. – gavin]
[Response of the author: And usually they tell us Germans we’re too serious… But seriously: as a scientist, and perhaps from my European perspective, I have trouble taking certain discussions and arguments seriously, and Crichton’s argument that the planet isn’t really warming, and that climatologists have basically made this up in a global conspiracy to get more research funding, is clearly one of those. I find it hard to imagine that even Crichton himself seriously believes this; I would not be surprised if next year he goes public saying: Hey, this was all just a novel, just testing the borders between reality and fiction – I had great fun seeing how many people were fooled and took this seriously. Ian McEwan also added a scientific paper to his excellent novel Enduring Love, claiming the novel was based on it – only a year later did he admit that he had also written the “scientific paper” himself, even going as far as submitting it to a journal (where one of the reviewers smelt a rat). – stefan]
You have to be a bit po-faced to criticize this little effort as an abrogation of RC’s neutrality, or a lowering of the level of debate, or whatever. One thing that it demonstrates quite clearly is how difficult it has become to effectively parody the stance of contrarians like Crichton, as their position is itself an incisive parody of real science.
Steve Bloom says
After the thorough RC demolition a few months back of pretty much everything Crichton had to say, somehow I don’t think his fans will find anything extra to offend them in this new post.
On another note (floral with a bit of spice would be my preference), can I help with the isotope analysis next time?
Peter J. Wetzel says
One of the indisputable facts that politicians have been attempting to keep secret from the public is the Worldwide Daylight Savings Time Conspiracy.
For the past few decades it has been argued that science, not politics, holds the key to understanding the causes of global warming. However, it is the politicians who are actually behind the tragic warming trend on our planet. Let me (at no small risk to my personal safety) elaborate:
Daylight Savings time was first implemented during the years of World War I (1916-1919). Farmers vehemently protested that decision. Being most in tune with the impact of weather and climate, many made the astute observation that the extra sunlight was “burning up” their crops. What they could not have anticipated was the serious impact that this extra hour of solar influx would have on global climate.
Is it really any mystery why, starting during World War I, global temperatures began to steadily rise? Pandora’s box had been opened! Once successfully implemented, the political acceptability of that extra injection of heat and sunlight could never again be fully suppressed. Although many countries officially repealed Daylight Savings time after World War I, some localities retained it. And more importantly, the concept lived on in the minds of those in political power (particularly those who played golf, and took delight in that extra hour to “engage their decadent folly”). [N.B.: some of us now theorize that the number of people engaging in the game of golf actually correlates better with the global mean temperature since 1850 than does the number of people required to change their clocks during summer.]
Is it any mystery that during World War II global mean temperatures reached a peak of fever heat, just when daylight Savings Time was once again widely implemented (running *continuously* from Feb. 2, 1942 to 30 September 1945 in the United States, for example)?
Finally, after the second world war, when many countries temporarily abandoned daylight savings time, the loss of the extra solar radiation caused a flattening, or even a dip in the global mean temperature.
However by 1965, 18 US states had once again adopted Daylight Savings time. In 1966, the practice was standardized across most of the USA, when Daylight savings time began to uniformly be implemented from the last Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October. Then during the energy crisis of the 1970’s, special legislation implemented Daylight Savings continuously in the US for most of two full years, beginning January 6, 1974.
That was the last straw. Once again under the widening impact of this full hour of extra solar radiation, global mean surface temperatures began to warm. More and more countries around the world were adopting and standardizing this reckless experiment with nature. In 1986 the United States turned up the boiler, adding 3 to 4 more weeks of Daylight savings time in spring (beginning the first week in April, rather than the last). In 1996, the European Union standardized an even longer period of baking in the solar oven — with the time change beginning the last week in March. Today more than 70 countries around the world have adopted the politically popular but particularly pernicious practice of baking their landscape under a mandatory extra hour of daylight (indeed, Russia has adopted a two-hour time change during summer!).
Until RealClimate readers begin to recognize and come to grips with this political conspiracy, our planet will continue to experience increasingly anomalous warm temperatures year after year.
Anthropogenic warming? There can no longer be any doubt whatsoever!! Although CO2 has been the convenient whipping-boy of the politically-naive, cloistered and misguided “ivory tower” scientists, the real climate impact has been kept a closely guarded secret until recently. The real enemy of our climate is a widespread and intensely secretive global conspiracy: the brotherhood of golf-loving legislators and politicians!!!
Newton…where are you? come back please! Re-write your theories, look for another fruit, not an apple. Remember Adan and Eve.
Genial, #15, we need to laugh when we are crying.
Prof Wenzel, thatÂ´s right, gravity has to do with thinks like illness (X person is in grave health state, etc..)
#9,10,11,12,14, thanks also for excellent j-OK-es
Dragons flight ..donÂ´t worry!.. Scientists have the right to make jokes when they are fed-up. So we can exercise certain muscles that help us relax and focus again seriously on some very serious issues.
And… in this blog we can can express our point of view . We cannot go and ask Scientific American, Nature, etc., to publish such comments, including many from people who are not in the scientific medium.
Mr. Crickey or Chrichton or Critictone, has done a very harmful job against real events analysis.
As Lars comments, “One thing that it demonstrates quite clearly is how difficult it has become to effectively parody the stance of contrarians like Crichton, as their position is itself an incisive parody of real science”.
Joseph O'Sullivan says
The Passion of the Crichton
Mel Gibson may direct State of Fear movie
Michael Jankowski says
I do think this was a creative piece. But what I found most amusing is the irony that the attempts to make fun of the anthropogenic greenhouse skeptic crowd were done using climate events that are 100% “natural” in origin. The skeptic crowd is the one, in fact, that claims natural variability is what is responsible for the vast majority of climate change. Yet the skeptical crowd is the one being portrayed in this piece as ignoring natural phenomena. It would be more applicable, IMHO, for the skeptical crowd to have written this type of piece when summer turned to fall. But as luck would have it, there is no “September Fools Day.”
Steve Latham says
In response to Michael Jankowski’s post (#27): I think I get what you mean, but I don’t think the word “natural” serves your purpose very well. Greenhouse gases allow incoming wavelengths to enter the atmosphere but reflect infrared back toward the Earth, and this is seen (I think) as being perfectly natural. Also natural is that higher concentrations of these gases should intensify this effect. So here we have something – a process – that natural scientists think they understand, and they make predictions on that basis (like the Fool’s Day scientists studying seasonality). The predictions are focused on the natural response of the Earth to increased GHG concentrations, which undoubtedly have a considerable anthropogenic component. I don’t want to make too much of the analogy, but I think the connection between mechanistic theory and prediction testing is clearer in Stefan’s submission than is the connection between Mike J’s idea and how the skeptical community works. Unfortunately, there’s an important point in that poorly-worded sentence. Please try to see it and I’ll try to elaborate below.
The skeptic community doesn’t seem very interested in mechanism. With the significant funds made available by Exxon-Mobil and others for debunking what they call junk science, you might think that some persuasive mechanistic theories and testable predictions would be forthcoming. Or at least that’s what I would expect. Now, I’m no climatologist, but I’ve looked for it and I’ve never been exposed to good debunking science. The debunkers seem limited to criticism of climate science, criticism of science at-large, and obfuscation regarding historical/natural/cyclic variability. It’s a successful strategy politically but not compelling scientifically.
I guess pointing out that increases in CO2 follow the beginning of warming periods was a fair contribution. [Was it the skeptics that discovered this or did they just pick up on it after?] But the skeptic community seems determined to rely on this rather than describe, in an intellectually honest way, what this means for the hypothesized influence of anthropogenic CO2 on climate. It would not be satisfactory or sufficient for a debunker in Stefan’s analogy to argue that, because warming continues well after the days start getting shorter we can dismiss the orbital hypothesis of the seasons. Why is it acceptable for skeptics to argue that poor historical correlations debunk current climate science? If they have alternative hypotheses they should present them. There is just one Earth and that makes controlled experiments pretty tough; it also means that we should be trying hard to understand it. Clinging to the null hypothesis in this case is lame.
To summarize, I think that for the skeptics to gain credibility in the realm of science, they need to either describe why Tyndall was wrong about greenhouse gases or else describe mechanisms that prevent anthropogenic global warming. Then they need to make predictions that can be rigorously tested – at least as rigorously as the current climate science. Finally, given the limitations of climate science (one Earth and all) they should describe what they would consider convincing evidence in favor of the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis. They never have to believe in anthropogenic global warming (all scientists should always remain skeptical of hypotheses), but let’s say they should name or provide a decision analysis regarding circumstances in which they would be supportive of mitigative actions. I’m not predicting this, but what if average global temperature increased 0.5 degrees in the next twenty years? What if it increased 0.5 degrees the next ten years and a further 0.5 degrees in the next ten years after that? [I ‘debated’ someone once who stated there should be no regulation until there is absolute proof that the human species will otherwise go extinct. Talk about difficult science to do!]
Perhaps it’s ignorant to demand these things from the skeptics’ science, or perhaps these demands are consistently met. Let me know. Also, I would be very interested to read a “September Fools Day” mocking of climate science, but why wait until then? Write it up and submit it. I’d like to read it.
John Finn says
I do think this was a creative piece. But what I found most amusing is the irony that the attempts to make fun of the anthropogenic greenhouse skeptic crowd were done using climate events that are 100% “natural” in origin.
Yes – this did occur to me also.
Pat Neuman, Hydrologist says
Which article on atmospheric CO2 is more accurate?
“after two large annual gains, rate of atmospheric CO2 increase returns to average,”
— NOAA REPORTS at:
“the annual rate at which CO2 is rising is increasing”
Dr Pieter Tans (NOAA CMDL)
— news.scotsman article at:
Links between CO2, global temperatures, El NiÃ±os
In response to #30: Both are correct. The first link refers to annual increases (comparing the last three years) whereas the second refers to decadal rates of increase (comparing the last decade against the 1960s).
Pat Neuman, Hydrologist says
I think the NOAA Reports article downplays global warming and casts Doubts about the Advent of Spring. It starts with … “A spike in the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere between 2001 and 2003 appears to be a temporary phenomenon and apparently does not indicate a quickening build-up of the gas in the atmosphere, according to an analysis by NOAA climate experts.”
… Many scientists are taking an irresponsible position in having no comment or taking a weak position against misleading or false reports driven by economics and politics.
Lynn Vincentnathan says
RE #30-32, I think the NOAA report was not assuring us “regular” GW is not happening, but that evidence of runaway GW is reduced, though they should have made that a bit clearer.
For 2 years the CO2 increases went beyond an increase that could be explained by increases in human emissions, possibly indicating that nature was either maxing out in its ability to aborb CO2, or that nature might be responding to the human-caused warming by emitting more CO2 (in positive feedback fashion – supportive of the theory that warming has preceded increases in CO2 in the past), and that if this trend continues it could indicate serious trouble – that eventually no matter how much GHGs we humans reduce, nature is taking the warming out of our hands to a higher level than projected. This is a much more serious scenario than “regular” anthropogenic GW, because the warming could be amplified, eventually thawing methane clathrates, and the warming could then really spiral to an massive extinction event level (as happened 251 million years ago when up to 95% of life on earth died).
Many GW savvy people around the world are now focusing on the possibility of runaway GW, now that knowledge and proof of “regular” global warming is a done deal. And we laypeople should be considering worst-case scenarios (even though highly improbable), not best-case scenarios, since the stakes are so high — hope for the best, expect the worst.
Furthermore, we don’t need 95% certainty to start turning off our car engines in drive-thrus (they say when the wait will be more than 30 seconds, offing the engine saves petroleum); we don’t even need 0% certainty. It just makes sense all on its own.
By the way, I read that the CO2 increase for 2004 was 2 ppm, not 1.5 ppm as NOAA states, which would sort of indicate we are still above decadal average in the increase, but not as much as the 2.5 in 2002 & 2003. We have one earth, as #29 points out. Is it worth risking such huge destruction of life, just so we can continue to be so wasteful of energy and resources & cause many environmental and other harms.
Contrarians (not referring to science skeptics doing honest research on other possibilities) seem to be extremely perverse. No wonder serious scientists (who are also persons living in the world) need a day off to joke around & vent.
“Almost the entire posting says that doubting global warming is as absurd as doubting the seasons”
Which it pretty much is.
Steve Bloom says
In reponse to #28, there has been some credible science-based skepticism from Richard Lindzen. I think some his earlier stuff was nearly in a blue-sky vein and has now been disproved (and his more recent work on clouds seems to be in the process of suffering the same fate), but at least he has made a fair effort to fully develop his alternative hypotheses so that others have something to critique. As far as I can tell, he has made a point of avoiding associations with the main body of scepticism, nor has he taken money from the fossil fuel industry or the Scaife crowd.
Steve Bloom says
SciAm editors give up their evil ways, bow to criticism from Crikey and Outhofe (see paragraph 4):
April 01, 2005
Okay, We Give Up
We feel so ashamed
By The Editors
There’s no easy way to admit this. For years, helpful letter writers told us to stick to science. They pointed out that science and politics don’t mix. They said we should be more balanced in our presentation of such issues as creationism, missile defense and global warming. We resisted their advice and pretended not to be stung by the accusations that the magazine should be renamed Unscientific American, or Scientific Unamerican, or even Unscientific Unamerican. But spring is in the air, and all of nature is turning over a new leaf, so there’s no better time to say: you were right, and we were wrong.
In retrospect, this magazine’s coverage of so-called evolution has been hideously one-sided. For decades, we published articles in every issue that endorsed the ideas of Charles Darwin and his cronies. True, the theory of common descent through natural selection has been called the unifying concept for all of biology and one of the greatest scientific ideas of all time, but that was no excuse to be fanatics about it. Where were the answering articles presenting the powerful case for scientific creationism? Why were we so unwilling to suggest that dinosaurs lived 6,000 years ago or that a cataclysmic flood carved the Grand Canyon? Blame the scientists. They dazzled us with their fancy fossils, their radiocarbon dating and their tens of thousands of peer-reviewed journal articles. As editors, we had no business being persuaded by mountains of evidence.
Moreover, we shamefully mistreated the Intelligent Design (ID) theorists by lumping them in with creationists. Creationists believe that God designed all life, and that’s a somewhat religious idea. But ID theorists think that at unspecified times some unnamed superpowerful entity designed life, or maybe just some species, or maybe just some of the stuff in cells. That’s what makes ID a superior scientific theory: it doesn’t get bogged down in details.
Good journalism values balance above all else. We owe it to our readers to present everybody’s ideas equally and not to ignore or discredit theories simply because they lack scientifically credible arguments or facts. Nor should we succumb to the easy mistake of thinking that scientists understand their fields better than, say, U.S. senators or best-selling novelists do. Indeed, if politicians or special-interest groups say things that seem untrue or misleading, our duty as journalists is to quote them without comment or contradiction. To do otherwise would be elitist and therefore wrong. In that spirit, we will end the practice of expressing our own views in this space: an editorial page is no place for opinions.
Get ready for a new Scientific American. No more discussions of how science should inform policy. If the government commits blindly to building an anti-ICBM defense system that can’t work as promised, that will waste tens of billions of taxpayers’ dollars and imperil national security, you won’t hear about it from us. If studies suggest that the administration’s antipollution measures would actually increase the dangerous particulates that people breathe during the next two decades, that’s not our concern. No more discussions of how policies affect science either-so what if the budget for the National Science Foundation is slashed? This magazine will be dedicated purely to science, fair and balanced science, and not just the science that scientists say is science. And it will start on April Fools’ Day.
Thanks Steve, for #36.
I’m glad Scientific American is now on-board. My only concern is that the Intelligent Design (ID) special issue is going to be a little thin. I still recommend that people listen to Crikey talk with Ira Flato of NPR’s Science Friday at State of Fear in which Flato eviscerates the author. Flato suggests that since Crikey doesn’t think climate change is real that perhaps he does not also subscribe to the “theory” of evolution either, which the author denies. (requires RealPlayer)
This is really worth listening to.
Pat Neuman, Hydrologist says
# 33 says: > By the way, I read that the CO2 increase for 2004 was 2 ppm, not 1.5 ppm as NOAA states, …
Lynn, If you have a ref that CO2 increase for 2004 was 2 ppm, please post it or email it to me, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lynn Vincentnathan says
RE #38, I know I did read CO2 increase for 2004 of 2.0 ppm somewhere within the past 30 days (I think in a news source off http://www.climateark.org), but all I could find when I went back there was:
“Concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere have increased to 378 parts per million (ppm), according to results gathered at Hawaiiâ??s Mauna Loa observatory. Although the rise from an average of 375.64 ppm in 2003 is smaller than in the previous two years, experts say it again fits the pattern of increases in emissions driving the warming of the Earthâ??s atmosphere and oceans” (http://news.scotsman.com/scitech.cfm?id=343732005).
However, NOAA says 1.5 ppm, so that must be it.
Bruce Frykman says
How pleasant it is to see that we’re finally getting some benefit for those untold billions of dollars we send off to Washington so they can “help us” cope.
So with all those billions of polically funded science, we can definatively now hold that spring will be warmer than winter; Gosh think of all the benefits I’ll derive from all that shared wisdom. I was just going out to buy a new July parka.
Re: comment #37 and Ira Flato’s interview with Michael Crichton:
I think you’ve oversold it. Flato barely spoke at all, letting Crichton have a nearly uninterrupted, unchallenged platform for the better part of 10 minutes or so. When he asked Crichton why he thought he knew better than every single expert and governmental body to have examined the field, Crichton’s response was a long and meandering digression about the history of the study–not a defense of his own presumptuous anti-intellectualism.
Oh, and he repeated the lie of the “1970s global cooling scare”, and Flato let him get away with it.
Pat Neuman, Hydrologist says
“the rate of carbon-dioxide increase returned to the long-term average level about 1.5 ppm per year in 2004,’ …
A CO2 average rate of increase based on 1958-2004 data is not …
“the long-term average”, in my view.
Annual averages that I calculated include:
1000-1800: 0.01 ppm (or less)
1800-1958: 0.23 ppm
1958-2004: 1.37 ppm
I think the statement shown at the beginning of this comment is downplaying global warming to the public.
I think scientists need to speak up to make sure that the public understands the meaning of the data. What do you think?
Michael Jankowski says
Re#39, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone took the liberty of rounding in order to make 1.5 into 2, whether out of ignorance at the significance or out of intent to exagerrate.
Pat Neuman, Hydrologist says
I think 1.5 ppm in 2004 is the low point in a cycle (similar to 1996 was the low point in a cycle that began in 1992 and ended in 2000).
I think placing emphasis on a low point in a cycle is illogical.
Does anyone have an ENSO prediction for next year?
Thanks to the Australian Bureau of Meterology a summary of ENSO predictions and has links. The commentary is good and worth reading. Basically looks like there could be a minor El-Nino coming.
The above NOAA link gives historical observations, which are also interesting.
Re #41: Flato interview with Crighton
I think you missed the point. Flato was sarcastic throughout but also just let Crighton talk – in order to give him enough rope to hang himself with or to “hoist himself with his own petard”, as from dictionary.com:
Then at the end Flato asked Crighton whether he still believed in evolution. I had never heard Flato speak to anyone this way and asking him about evolution amounted to putting the cream on the pie.
The author of http://www.michnews.com/artman/publish/article_7780.shtml and his manner of presenting his case against regulation of CO2, climate models, and whatnot would not gain any merit because of what it he might think it might provide because he states it is “so” in his “matter of fact manner.” At least not to me…..
And his mere act of plucking a concept out of the thin air—- has been done previously by others too many times before—and is not a sufficient basis for any model of a sustainable hypothesis or theory…and his ignorance in relation to science is truly lamentable..
And he is rather subjective as to what information he chooses to present,and how he presents it would appear…….
snip—–“Indeed, satellite and weather balloon measurements have found little or no warming over the past 25 years, and other climate models project only modest warming”
“World-class geologists and climatologists emphasize that Planet Earth has been buffeted by numerous natural climate shifts for millions of years. The shifts often come in 50, 500 and 1,500-year cycles, they say.”
“For instance, our Earth went through a 500-year Little Ice Age – then warmed about a degree since that era ended around 1850. Nearly half of this warming occurred before 1940 – long before carbon dioxide began building up in the atmosphere. Other past climate swings also show there is little cause for alarm.”
I thought he didn’t trust computer predictions….but they are good for writing material?
—snip- “Arctic temperature increases between 1971 and 2003 might spell trouble if they continued, even though the rise was below what computer models had predicted: 1.4 degrees F per half century. However, between 1938 and 1966 average annual arctic temperatures fell 6 degrees F. Had that trend continued, temperatures would have plummeted 10.7 degrees F in 50 years!”
—- ignorance about atmospheric chemistry really shows here……
snip—-“Moreover, the CO2 that is supposedly causing “catastrophic” warming represents only 0.00035 of all the gases in the atmosphere (1.25 inches out of a 100-yard football field), and proposals to control this vital plant nutrient ignore a far more critical greenhouse gas: water vapor.”
I emailed the editor a request, that in fairness to both sides of the issues and to be fair to science, he owed the Columbia University’s Earth Institute ‘s “Climate Change Information Portal” scientists, or even realclimate.org climate scientists a response in relation to climate models because that was the starting focus of the column
“The latest example comes from Columbia University, where the Earth Institute asserts that its new “Climate Change Information Portal” will enable people to assess, avoid and adapt to “the problems that climate change and variability can cause” – and can even do so years into the future for regions as small as the tri-state New York metropolitan area.”
Ya think they will respond? Nawwww—-its Michigan..—but who knows….maybe–I’ll be shocked and floored and they will respond……:)
Sonya PLoS Medicine
Steve Latham says
The story linked below suggests even more that Stefan’s satire is relevant (see my clipping from the article):
“We can’t even tell what the weather’s going to be two weeks from now, but these models tell us what the climate is going to be like 100 years from now,” said Judge A. Raymond Randolph, whose questioning appeared to favor the EPA’s position.
Whenever science mixes with funding, we have a responsibility to be skeptical. There is NOTHING wrong with being skeptical about extraordinary claims of any type. Whether it is homeopathic medicine and other medical quackery, intelligent design ‘theory’, or complex and open global systems, it is important to look not only at the data that is produced, but the motivations for arriving at that data.
Advent Of Spring Debunked!
A “consensus view” amongst climate scientists holds that the Northern Hemisphere will be warming this month, as spring is coming. …